Could you use a few more healthy snacking ideas? We have 6 tips to get you started.
1. Consider “calorie density.“
Foods lower in calorie density have fewer calories per bite. For example, here’s 100 calories’ worth of a dozen snacks. It’s easy to see how you’ll fill up on more food with fresh (not dried) fruits or vegetables because they’re lower in calorie density than most other snacks. Don’t like your vegetables plain? Scroll down to number 3.
100 calories of fruits & vegetables
100 calories of everything else
2. Bring on the fruits and vegetables.
It’s not just that fruits and vegetables are low in calories per bite. They also supply a wallop of nutrients (like potassium, magnesium, and fiber) that are in short supply in most Americans’ diets. Snacking on produce is a no-brainer when 9 out of 10 of us don’t eat enough vegetables and the healthiest diets have more than 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
Minimizing trips to the supermarket? Stock your fridge and freezer with these longer-lasting varieties:
- Papaya (refrigerate when ripe)
- Melons (refrigerate when ripe)
- Apples (refrigerate when ripe)
- Frozen grapes (a great icy treat)
- Frozen berries
- Carrot sticks (slice your own from whole carrots, or buy baby-cut or crinkle-cut carrots)
- Raw cauliflower or broccoli florets, sliced celery, or quartered radishes (serve with your favorite dip)
- Frozen edamame (microwave and sprinkle with soy sauce, if you like)
- Jicama (peel, slice into sticks, and splash with lime juice)
Other good (but more perishable) veggie snacks: mini cucumbers, grape or cherry tomatoes, and bell peppers.
3. Pair vegetables with nutritious dips.
Go for store-bought or homemade. Our Healthy Cook, Kate Sherwood, has recipes for tahini-yogurt, hummus, and guacamole:
In a small bowl, whisk together ½ cup plain greek yogurt, ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, 2 Tbs. tahini, 2 Tbs. lemon juice, 1 small clove minced garlic, and ½ tsp. kosher salt. Makes 1 cup.
Per serving (2 Tbs.): 90 calories, 9 g total fat, 1 g sat fat, 2 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 1 g total sugar, 0 g added sugar, 3 g protein, 130 mg sodium
With a fork, mash together 2 avocados, ¼ cup minced white onion, ½ cup finely chopped tomato, 2 Tbs. lime juice, 1 minced jalapeño pepper (optional), and ¼ tsp. kosher salt. Makes 2 cups.
Per serving (2 Tbs.): 30 calories, 2.5 g total fat, 0 g sat fat, 2 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 0 g total sugar, 0 g added sugar, 0 g protein, 30 mg sodium
In a food processor, combine 1 cup no-salt-added chickpeas, 2 Tbs. lemon juice, 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, 1 Tbs. tahini, 1 minced clove garlic, and ¼ tsp. kosher salt. Process until smooth. Add a sprinkle of paprika for a bit of color and subtle pepper taste (optional). Makes 1 cup.
Per serving (2 Tbs.): 60 calories, 3 g total fat, 0 g sat fat, 6 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 0 g total sugar, 0 g added sugar, 2 g protein, 70 mg sodium
Click here for more dip recipes from The Healthy Cook.
4. Add fruit or nuts to yogurt.
You can’t go wrong with some fresh or frozen fruit plus greek or regular yogurt. Fruit with plain yogurt means no added sugar.
Got some slivered almonds or chopped walnuts or pecans in your pantry? Try toasting them and topping your yogurt for even more flavor. Toast nuts in the oven at 325°F for 8 to 15 minutes. Just keep a close eye on them. Nuts can go from untoasted to burnt in what seems like seconds.
For just a little sweetness, look for flavored yogurts like Chobani Less Sugar or Siggi’s (which have less added sugar than most brands) or Two Good (which has stevia but no added sugar).
5. Turn to savory snacks that beat chips.
Better-for-you savory snacks feature nuts, seeds, whole grains, or legumes instead of white flour or refined starch:
Keep nuts and seeds on hand.
Nuts and seeds pack healthy fats plus nutrients like magnesium, zinc, and vitamin E into one tempting plant-based bite.
The downside: calorie density. It’s awfully easy to lose track of how many bites you’ve taken. Solution: Pre-portion an ounce of nuts into reusable containers. Here’s roughly how many nuts are in a 1-oz. serving:
Want crackers? Look for 100% whole grain.
A go-to whole-grain cracker: Triscuits, which are mostly shredded wheat plus a touch of oil and salt.
And it takes more than 6 crackers to snack your way through a 120-calorie serving if you go with Triscuit Thin Crisps (14 crackers) or petite Triscuit Minis (26 crackers).
Thin crackers are perfect for topping. Try sliced cucumber or tomato atop a schmear of hummus or labneh (tangy yogurt cheese).
Try crunchy beans.
Crispy, crunchy bean snacks like The Good Bean Sea Salt Crispy Favas + Peas beat bean puffs or “veggie” chips, hands down. We’re talking roasted whole beans and peas (plus oil and salt), not bean flour or veggie powder diluted with refined flours and starches.
Some other good whole-bean brands: Biena (chickpeas), Enlightened (“broad beans,” aka favas), and David Energy-Packed Mix (a blend of chickpeas, lentils, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds).
6. Stow unhealthy snacks out of reach.
When it comes to unhealthy snacks, distance is your friend. (These two studies help explain why.) If you’re trying to dodge junk food, make it easier on yourself: Keep it out of sight…or at least out of reach. And make healthy snacks convenient. Keep fruit on hand or stash pre-cut veggies up front in your refrigerator.
Struggling to avoid unhealthy snacks that you don’t want? Be kind to yourself. Human brains aren’t designed to say no to those foods, though they do our health no favors. Here are six strategies that can help you resist the flood of junk fighting for your attention.
Photos: tbralnina/stock.adobe.com (top), Jennifer Urban/CSPI (calorie density), pinkyone/stock.adobe.com (vegetables), ©baibaz/fotolia.com (fruit), Kate Sherwood/CSPI (yogurt-tahini), Jennifer Urban/CSPI (guacamole), Kate Sherwood/CSPI (hummus), Lindsay Moyer/CSPI (yogurt), ©Dream79/fotolia.com (mixed nuts), ©AlenKadr/fotolia.com (peanuts), International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation (other nuts), Triscuit (crackers), Kaamilah Mitchell/CSPI (beans), ©kudosstudio/fotolia.com (hands), ©vadarshop/fotolia.com (M&M’s).
Nutrition Action doesn’t accept any paid advertising or corporate or government donations. Any products recommended by Nutrition Action have been vetted by our staff and are not advertisements by the manufacturers. The information in this post first appeared in Nutrition Action Healthletter.
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